5 Key Reasons Why MAT Gets Overlooked and How It Can Transform Recovery

What is the most effective type of treatment for substance dependence?

Why MAT gets overlooked: Addiction recovery can be a long and arduous journey. Many people worsen this struggle by lacking awareness and understanding of available treatment options. When seeking help for substance dependence, a common question often arises: what is the most effective type of treatment for substance dependence? This query usually surfaces when substance use begins to significantly impact one’s life, such as causing job loss or relationship problems. One of the most effective yet frequently overlooked methods is medication-assisted treatment (MAT).

Substance use, whether involving alcohol or opioids, is a billion-dollar industry, which means market forces do not necessarily drive people toward practical help. For instance, alcohol, being a legal substance with a strong media and social presence, is prevalent in many social situations. According to the World Health Organization, 7% of the global population over the age of 15 has an alcohol use disorder. Yet, only a tiny fraction seek medical treatment for it.

In this MAT Care Clinics blog, we will explore why MAT gets overlooked, its benefits, and how it can be transformative for those struggling with substance dependence.

What is Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)?

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) utilizes FDA-approved medications in conjunction with psychological therapy to treat substance use disorders, such as opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD). MAT medications play a crucial role in managing withdrawal symptoms, reducing cravings, and normalizing brain chemistry. Commonly used medicines in MAT include methadone, buprenorphine, and naltrexone. Additionally, psychological therapy helps manage trauma, emotions, and the psychological aspects of addiction, offering a well-rounded path to recovery.

MAT works by stabilizing the brain’s neurochemical balance, which substance abuse disrupts. Methadone and buprenorphine are medications that trigger opioid receptors in the brain but in a controlled manner that doesn’t produce the “high” associated with opioid misuse. Naltrexone, on the other hand, blocks these receptors, preventing the euphoric effects of opioids and alcohol.

Why MAT Gets Overlooked

Understanding the reasons why MAT gets overlooked can help healthcare professionals advocate for broader acceptance and utilization of MAT in addiction treatment and help individuals looking for support to understand better the options available to treat substance dependency. Here are the reasons why individuals with addiction often overlook MAT despite its effectiveness:

  1. Stigma Surrounding MAT: One of the primary reasons why MAT gets overlooked is the stigma associated with medication-based treatments. There’s a misconception that using medications to treat addiction is substituting one drug for another. However, scientific research debunks this misconception and highlights the effectiveness of MAT.Numerous studies have shown that MAT not only reduces opioid use but also decreases the risk of overdose and improves social functioning. For example, a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that patients treated with buprenorphine or methadone were significantly less likely to relapse. Additionally, this research confirms that MAT improves patient survival, increases retention in treatment, and decreases illicit opiate use.Moreover, MAT has a holistic impact on the patient’s life, improving employment rates and restoring their social relationships. Unlike the misconception that MAT replaces one addiction with another, it aids in long-term recovery and allows individuals to lead more stable and productive lives. Healthcare providers must understand and communicate these facts to patients, policymakers, and the general public to overcome the stigma and expand the acceptance of MAT in addiction treatment.
  2. Lack of Awareness and Education: Many patients and healthcare professionals need to be fully informed about MAT and its benefits. This unawareness can result in underutilization and missed opportunities for effective treatment.Research indicates that inadequate education about MAT is a significant barrier to its adoption. The National Library of Medicine found that many healthcare providers need more training and knowledge to prescribe and manage MAT effectively. This deficiency often results in hesitation in incorporating MAT into treatment plans. The study highlights that comprehensive training programs improve providers’ confidence and competence in utilizing MAT, ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.Furthermore, a substantial proportion of the population holds misconceptions about MAT. For instance, many believe that MAT replaces one addiction with another, ignoring the science that supports its efficacy in reducing relapse rates and improving overall quality of life. Public health campaigns and community education efforts are critical in dispelling these myths and enhancing the general understanding of MAT’s role in addiction treatment.
  3. Market Forces Reinforcing Alcohol Consumption: Another significant reason why MAT gets overlooked is due to the market forces that actively promote alcohol consumption, often overshadowing the needs of individuals suffering from alcohol dependence disorders. The alcohol industry invests heavily in advertising designed to normalize and glamorize drinking, which influences public perceptions and behaviors. This pervasive promotion creates a societal environment where alcohol use is not only accepted but encouraged, making it more challenging for public health messages about the risks of alcohol dependence and the benefits of MAT to gain traction. Unlike most substances for which people seek treatment, large sectors of U.S. society and the economy encourage alcohol consumption. For instance, spirits suppliers alone generated $38 billion in U.S. sales. Consequently, the focus remains skewed towards maintaining profitable alcohol sales rather than addressing the critical health needs of those struggling with addiction.In the U.S., approximately 2.1%—or 634,000 people—who had Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs) received MAT in the past year, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) report. This number pales in comparison to the total number of people with an AUD, which stands at about 29.5 million, or roughly 10.5% of the population.
  4. Social and Cultural Acceptance: Alcohol use is deeply ingrained in American social culture, making it difficult for individuals to avoid triggers and the presence of alcohol in most social environments. This cultural norm not only complicates efforts to abstain but also perpetuates the stigma surrounding seeking help for alcohol dependence. Social pressure to drink can deter individuals from pursuing medication-assisted treatment, as admitting to a drinking problem may lead to feelings of ostracization or judgment. Moreover, popular media and entertainment often portray alcohol consumption in a positive light, reinforcing the idea that drinking is an essential component of social interaction and enjoyment. This widespread acceptance and normalization of alcohol use create substantial barriers for those striving to achieve and maintain sobriety through MAT.
  5. Limited Access to MAT Services: Geographic location, availability of trained providers, and insurance coverage can restrict access to MAT services. Rural areas often need more facilities offering MAT, making it difficult for patients in these regions to access this essential form of treatment.The limited access to MAT services significantly impedes many individuals’ ability to receive adequate treatment for substance use disorder. Geographic limitations play a crucial role, especially in rural areas where healthcare resources are often scarce. Many rural communities need more infrastructure and specialized healthcare providers to deliver MAT, leaving patients with few nearby options for treatment. Even in urban settings, the need for more trained providers can exacerbate this issue, as demand frequently outstrips supply.Several studies highlight these geographic disparities in MAT access. For instance, research published in the Journal of Rural Health points out that rural counties are less likely to have healthcare providers certified to prescribe buprenorphine, a critical medication for MAT.

    Insurance coverage is another significant barrier to accessing MAT services. Insurance policies often impose limitations on MAT coverage, requiring prior authorization or not covering the full range of medications and associated treatment services. This lack of coverage can make MAT prohibitively expensive for many patients and is a crucial reason why MAT gets overlooked.

The Benefits of MAT

The Benefits of MAT

Despite various challenges, the benefits of MAT make it a valuable option for treating substance use disorders. Here’s why individuals should consider MAT more frequently in addiction treatment.

  • Proven Effectiveness: Numerous studies have demonstrated that MAT is highly effective in reducing opioid use, decreasing overdose deaths, and improving retention in treatment programs. Based on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) research, MAT can significantly reduce the risk of fatal overdose.
  • Comprehensive Care: MAT offers a holistic approach to addiction treatment by combining medication with counseling and behavioral therapies. This integrated care ensures that professionals address the physical challenges and the psychological triggers of addiction, enhancing the likelihood of long-term recovery.
  • Improved Quality of Life: Patients who receive MAT experience significant improvements in their quality of life. They are better able to maintain employment, engage in social activities, and rebuild relationships with loved ones.

Begin Your Substance Dependence Treatment with MAT Care Clinics

At MAT Care Clinics, we specialize in providing comprehensive treatment for individuals seeking support in overcoming substance dependence disorders, whether related to alcohol or opioids. Our mission is to help you reclaim your life.

Utilizing a scientifically proven approach, we mitigate the risks associated with substance dependence and promote long-term recovery. Our team of certified physicians will guide you on your path to recovery.

Reclaim your life with medication-assisted treatment from the leading provider in New England. Call us at (833) 622-0628 or contact us online today.

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